ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court will take up on Monday the Sindh government’s request for urgent hearing of its appeal against the overturning of Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh’s conviction for the killing of Wall Street Journal (WSJ) bureau chief Daniel Pearl.
The apex court at the last hearing on June 1 had asked the Sindh government to furnish complete record comprising all evidence along with its appeal challenging the decision of the Sindh High Court in the Daniel Pearl case.
Besides the Sindh government, the parents of the slain journalist, Ruth Pearl and Judea Pearl, had also moved appeals through senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui.
A three-judge bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Yahya Afridi will consider the provincial government’s application in which it had requested the Supreme Court to consider hearing the challenge to the April 2 decision during or soon after the summer vacation, which usually end in the first week of October.
Sindh govt told to furnish complete record with its challenge to overturning of Sheikh’s conviction
The Sindh government through Prosecutor General Dr Fiaz Shah in its appeal urged the SC to set aside the SHC order that modified the sentence of Omer Sheikh to seven years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs2 million. The government expressed the apprehension that the accused could abscond along with co-accused after the SHC modified the sentence of Sheikh and acquitted three co-conspirators namely Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib, who were earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Karachi.
Daniel Pearl, 38, was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002. A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate a month later. Subsequently, Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by the trial court.
Meanwhile, Ruth and Judea Pearl through their petitions had pleaded that the SHC erred in discarding the evidence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) forensic expert on the ground that the forensic expert had stated in his evidence that he was given the laptop, belonging to Fahad Naseem on Feb 4, 2002, whereas the witnesses had stated in their evidence that the same laptop was recovered on Feb 11, 2002. The evidence of the forensic expert and his forensic expert report clearly showed that the said laptop was used for sending the ransom emails, they pleaded.
Moreover, the evidence of the forensic expert was clearly corroborated by the evidence of the independent witnesses, such as prosecution witnesses Sheikh Naeem and Mehmood Iqbal proving that the internet connection given to Fahad Naseem was used for sending the ransom emails.
The SHC even erroneously discarded the evidence of prosecution witness Zaheer Ahmed by declaring him a chance witness, even though his independent evidence supports the fact that the laptop was recovered. Therefore, in view of the strong independent corroboration, the evidence of the forensic expert and his forensic expert report could not have been discarded solely on the basis of contradictions in the dates of his examination of the laptop and the same was liable to be considered as incriminating evidence against Shaikh, pleaded the parents of the slain journalist.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2020